Hope, an unfamiliar emotion

Biden harris inauguration

All right, I’m going to say this out loud. I didn’t want to vote for Joe Biden.

I was angry and disillusioned when the most diverse collection of presidential candidates in US history dwindled down to…an old White man. After watching sexism and outright misogyny destroy Hillary Clinton’s campaign and saddle the world with Trump, it was excruciating to watch sexism rear its head once again. The media learned nothing.

In particular, Elizabeth Warren, whose fully thought-out plans were online for anyone to see and whose competence was unquestionable, could not get media coverage once Biden declared. The coverage she did get was often execrable, castigating her for being unlikable and a “Nurse Rachett.” Steve Forbes (of Forbes Media) said “she reminds people of the teacher you didn’t like,” a statement that was picked up and repeated all over the press. Meanwhile, the usual double standard meant Bernie Sanders was celebrated for his “passion” when he shouted and gesticulated angrily during speeches.

I was so furious about my once-again-limited options that I considered not voting, which would have been a first. (Fortunately, I got over myself and voted online — thank you, Oregon, for making it easy for expatriates.)

But then Biden named his VP, and he chose the very same woman who had skewered him in a debate, castigating him for his opposition to mandatory busing and his nostalgic words about working with two segregationist senators.

“It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and careers on the segregation of race in this country,” Kamala Harris said, staring him down. “You also worked with them to oppose busing. And there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bussed to school every day. And that little girl was me.”

Jill Biden later said that moment was “like a punch to the gut.”

Harris debate

That Biden chose Harris said worlds about his priorities. He didn’t want a loyalist. He was willing to work with a previous competitor who had landed a serious blow on him. I cannot think of any single thing more diametrically opposed to The Sycophant Show we’ve watched for the past four years than that.

Once Biden/Harris carried the election, we started seeing the cabinet and advisor names. A Native American woman for Secretary of the Interior, which (among other things) oversees the federal government’s relationships with Native American tribes. A Black man for Secretary of Defense. A Latino immigrant for Secretary of Homeland Security, which deals with immigration and border issues. A White woman director of National Intelligence, and a Black woman for Ambassador to the United Nations. An Asian woman for US Trade Representative, and a White woman for Secretary of the Treasury. A Latino man for Secretary of Health and Human Services, and a Black woman for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. A transgender woman for Assistant Health Secretary, and an all-female communications team.

The list goes on and on, a kaleidoscope of skin colors, genders, and impressive qualifications. (NPR has an easy-to-read lineup of all nominees.) Biden is making a powerful statement: he wants his cabinet to look like America.

Next, we saw the list of actions Biden had planned. Never mind the first 100 days, he was going to kick over the table and make shit happen on the first day. Every single thing on that list made my shoulders lighter: rejoining the Paris climate accord, stopping the US departure from the World Health Organization, ending the Muslim travel ban, installing a coronavirus response coordinator to finally provide federal guidance to the release of vaccines and medical supplies, and restoring the Bears Ears and Escalante/Staircase National Monuments — just to name a few. In all, the list was 17 items long. And that was the first day, which is actually half a day, since there was that little matter of an inauguration.

I began to feel a strange stirring of emotion, one I hardly recognized after the carnage of the last four years: hope.

Inauguration west front

This is the first inauguration I’ve ever watched from start to finish. Sure, I watched highlights from past events, especially the oaths and the inaugural speech. But yesterday was special.

What a joy to see the West Front of the Capitol clean and white, wreathed in flags and bunting, housing a physically distanced group of guests — a sharp contrast to earlier images of the same scene swathed in smoke, with thousands of rioters crammed onto all three levels. From an insurrection to the stately process of a democratic handover of power. Ahhh.

As an aside, repair crews replaced the last broken window in the Capitol that very morning. It took two weeks of frantic labor to clean up the damage done by Trump supporters, including redoing enormous amounts of work on the inauguration platform.

“When I left there Wednesday, I was real happy and proud of our team,” said Kevin Grooms, who works in the Paint Shop. The white paint on the inaugural stands was completely finished, and they had made it through nearly three-quarters of the blue detail work. “We worked until probably twelve o’clock Wednesday. And the blue paint that was on the deck was actually still wet.”

“We came back on Thursday morning, and I mean, it was completely destroyed,” he said. “It was just totally demolished. The blue wet paint, they tracked it all over.”

Huge kudos to the team at Architect of the Capitol, the government agency in charge of caring for this national treasure. They worked their butts off to erase those scars. The above photo is a testament to their labors.

It paid off, providing a pristine background for a classy inauguration. I confess to a tear when Kamala Harris took her oath of office. But who could see what happened immediately after and not smile?

Harris biden bump

Watching the body language of Biden and Harris makes one thing clear: they may have been competitors at one time, but they are a good team now.

Building and working with teams is, in fact, one of Joe Biden’s best skills. As I listened to his inaugural address speaking of ending “this uncivil war,” I joined much of the world in letting out a big exhale of relief. I didn’t want to vote for him, but…it just might be that he is the right person for the moment. He is genuine. He gave the most plain-spoken yet beautiful inaugural address I’ve ever heard. He spoke the truth, plain and simple, and his yearning for a return to civility was palpable and contagious.

It would be the kind of irony that historians love: the uninteresting candidate whose lack of polish made him ever a bridesmaid, never a bride, turns out to be the one a deeply wounded nation needs to heal.

We’re only just starting, so who knows, but my anger is long gone. A woman is vice president. A person of color is vice president. Half the cabinet members (if approved) and advisors are women. On day one, Biden enacted the biggest expansion of LGBTQ rights in US history. He’s focusing on the climate crisis, the covid crisis, and the national civility crisis. Regarding the latter, he set the tone right away when administering the oath of office to White House employees via Zoom:

“I’m not joking when I say this: If you are ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot…No ifs, ands or buts.” He added, “Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That’s been missing in a big way the last four years.”

Change is already happening. It feels good. It feels…like hope.

Posted in politics, USA | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Pompeii takeout and American assumption


Archaeologists have uncovered another fascinating glimpse into pre-eruption life in Pompeii — the recently excavated termopolium, or takeout counter. I’m agog at the brightly painted counter, still vivid after 2,000 years, and the fact that the physical design is so recognizable: we modern folks still use removable containers set into the counter. But what really struck me was this explanation:

Grabbing a takeout meal at a food counter like this one, or sitting down to eat at a local taberna, would have been part of the daily routine for most people in a Roman city like Pompeii. Today, we think of eating out as a pricey convenience or a splurge…

No, “we” don’t think that. Americans think that, because it’s true in the US. But in much of Europe, and certainly Portugal, eating out is an affordable and often daily event. I say this with the assurance of an American expat who once sat down with pencil and paper to determine how many meals we could get out of two “doses” of lunch takeout, and what that worked out to in cost per meal. (This arithmetic was made slightly more complicated by the variable of a teenaged boy, whose consumption equalled that of 2.5 adults.)

It took me years to shed my old American understanding (eating out is a treat we must budget for) and accept the Portuguese understanding (eating out can be cheaper than cooking at home, unless you choose the places that cater to tourists and expats). These days, the culture shock goes the other direction. When I visit family and friends in Oregon, I’m stunned by the realization that a muffin and hot cocoa at Starbucks costs as much as a full, healthy takeout meal back home: half a roasted chicken basted with a delicious sauce of olive oil and spices, a fresh salad, and a serving of rice or fries. (Okay, that last bit isn’t quite so healthy, but dang it’s good.)

These days, commentary like the paragraph quoted above tend to yank me out of the article as my brain says “Waitaminit, that isn’t true.” But before moving abroad, I would have mentally nodded my acceptance of that “fact” and kept reading.

Which could lead to a whole discussion on what other assumptions are accepted as fact in the US while being demonstrably false elsewhere…but I’d rather look at the cool photos of the Pompeii termopolium, especially the paintings. Seriously, click that link and check it out.

In the meantime, I have a sudden craving. It’s going to be chicken takeout for dinner tonight.

Posted in culture, Europe, food, Portugal, USA | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Far Enough

Ready for an early holiday gift?

Quite a few readers (and some reviewers) have said that the one thing they really missed in Alsea Rising was a proper exploration of how Salomen and Lhyn arrived at their deeper understanding. It’s a valid critique: while we watched the relationship between Tal and Ekatya grow from Book 1 onward, Salomen and Lhyn didn’t even meet until Book 4 — and their friendship was not explored until Book 8. Making matters more difficult was the fact that their shift from platonic to romantic took place between the end of Uprising and the beginning of Alsea Rising. It happened “offstage,” where no one got to see it.

Well, now it’s onstage.

Far Enough is a quiet, happy novella of 20,000 words that answers the big question from Alsea Rising plus several smaller questions readers may not have thought to ask. We learn more about Lhyn’s childhood (half of this novella is told from her point of view) and see deeper into Salomen’s heart as she works her way through a profound shift in expectations, both of herself and of Andira.

Even those who were not entirely comfortable with the choices these four characters made in Alsea Rising may find that this novella helps. One early reader said, “I loved it. I think I’d have had an easier time with Tal and Ekatya’s relationship if I’d read this first.”

This is a comfort read, perfect for a winter’s day with a hot drink at your elbow. It’s available at all the usual digital shops (collected at this handy portal) for the price of that hot drink: $3.99.

Many of us cannot go where we hoped or see the people we love this year — but at least we can go to Alsea.

(Synopsis below.)


Far Enough


Immediately after the uprising, Lhyn Rivers is called to account for her involvement in an event that shocked the world. Disturbed by her interview and missing her bondmate, she finds refuge at Hol-Opah.

Salomen Opah is at loose ends, trapped on her holding with nothing to do and no distractions from unwanted memories. Lhyn’s arrival is a welcome excuse to get out and return to an old, beloved pastime.

For five days, Salomen and Lhyn journey through landscapes both physical and emotional. Their quiet exploration brings more than just the peace they seek: it brings an unlooked-for gift that will change four lives.

Posted in good news, writing | Tagged , | 3 Comments

I have an issue with Netflix’s “Away”

My wife and I are almost through the Netflix science fiction series Away. We really wanted to love it, because what’s not to love about a sci-fi show with fantastic special effects (including zero-G scenes we absolutely believe), a wonderfully diverse cast, and a female commander (played by Hilary Swank!)?

And yet…

cast of Away

Honestly, the central character should not be Commander Emma Green. It should be Dr. Lu Wang. I’m not saying this because Lu is gay, I’m saying it because the burdens she bears and the dramatic tensions they create are far more interesting. She’s a woman representing a highly patriarchal culture. She’s in a loveless marriage (practically required by said culture) but in love with a woman she’s not allowed to talk to. She’s had to leave her young son behind, knowing her husband is now the only parent who can be there for the next three years. She starts out the series being judgmental and wrong, but gradually progresses to become less rigid and more understandable. She’s an intriguing character we want to know more about.

Emma Green is defined 100% by her family. In the pilot episode, we are presented with a woman competent and tough enough to not only be selected for Earth’s first international mission to Mars, she is given command of it. And then we are shown that this competent, tough woman, with the expectations of the whole world on her shoulders, will in fact throw all that away 24 hours before liftoff because her husband has a medical emergency and her teen daughter is crying down the phone line for her to come home. They could have done so much more with her character in the pilot, showing her agonizing about the fact that she has to leave yet knowing that at this point, there is no other option. Instead, we’re treated to Emma shouting at her supervisor “Don’t give me that feminist bullshit!” when the supervisor says, quite rightly, that she will set women back by decades if she quits now. (And given that this is a huge, international endeavor, it won’t just be women in the space program — it will be global.)

Emma only goes when her husband, fresh out of surgery, tells her to. I slapped my forehead so hard that I still have the bruise.

As the ship and the series progress toward Mars, we learn more about the crew members, their backstories, and what drives them today. Every one of the four crew are more interesting than Emma and her continual second-guessing regarding her decision to go. I have no problem believing that she would feel torn about leaving her family behind. My problem is believing that after a lifetime of pursuing this dream and two years of specific training for it — including rigorous psychological screening — the leader of a three-year space mission would suddenly want take-backsies and spend the next several months looking yearningly out the nearest porthole toward Earth. If this is the case, then that psychological screening was really off the mark.

Also, when I sign up to watch a series about a mission to Mars, I want to see the mission to Mars, not endless scenes of an angsty teen on Earth acting out because her mama went to space. (We have taken to fast-forwarding through those.)

But those zero-G scenes on the ship, where we see the crew living and moving about as if this is all perfectly normal — which for them, it is — are marvelously well done. The ship design is fabulous; we love the scenes from outside, showing it as a whole. The spacewalk in the second episode was thrilling. The increasing sense of distance becomes heavier with each episode, as the crew and their families and coworkers must rely on voice recordings or emails when latency makes calls impossible. 

If we could just have a commander who isn’t entirely defined by her role as wife and mother, this might be a great show. Dr. Lu Wang, can you please take over?

ADDENDUM: We just watched the final episode. It was marvelous! Tense, believable, fabulous special effects, Emma finally shaped up, and to put a bow around the whole thing, Dr. Lu Wang issued a middle finger for the ages. We may have to watch the last half of that episode again. 

In fact, the last three episodes were very good, excluding the boring teen angst. Had the whole series been like that, I would have given it a solid A.

Posted in entertainment | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Now, about *that* topic

If you haven’t read at least past Chapter 9 of Alsea Rising: Gathering Storm (the chapter titled “The Seventh Star”), hold off on reading this blog post until you have. Here, let me put in a pretty image of book covers to create some spoiler space. Below these books, all bets are off! (But I will still avoid spoilers for Alsea Rising: The Seventh Star.)

Alsea Rising covers side by side


Right, let’s chat!

Here is a fact: no matter what I did with these last two books, pleasing all readers was categorically impossible. My readers are wonderfully diverse, which means they attach to and sometimes identify with this character but not that one (and there are five main characters plus four powerful secondary characters to divide their loyalties), which leads to strong opinions as to who should get coverage and what is (and is not!) a preferred outcome.

Since making everyone happy is not possible, I had one of two choices: 1) I could “write to market” and choose the narrative option that would please the greatest number of readers, or 2) I could write the story as it has unfolded in my imagination and as the characters themselves have driven it.

The thing is, I’m not very good at writing to market.

Alsea has always been about representation. I started writing science fiction because I was sick of sci-fi that was all dudes, all the time. I wanted to see lead characters that looked like me. Then I wanted to see lead characters that loved like me. Then I realized that if I wanted to see this, other underrepresented people surely did as well.

Sigourney Weaver in Alien

Sigourney Weaver blazed a trail by playing an action hero with (gasp!) a female body — in 1979. Almost forty years later, people still questioned whether Wonder Woman would make any money at the ticket office.

What better world to show families and loves that don’t correspond with most definitions of “standard” than Alsea, which has no sexism, no racism (except against Voloth), no rigid gender definitions, and a culture that sees sharing of emotions as more intimate than sharing of bodies?

So we have families with two fathers, or two mothers, or one of each. We have a female character who made a family with a male partner, lost that family, and made a new one with a female partner. We have an asexual main character. We have significant characters of color in both straight and same-sex partnerships. We have a disabled man with a chronic illness living a full and active life with his bondmate. In Books 9 and 10, we add a heterosexual interspecies relationship with a rather unique twist.

And in Book 9, Chapter 9, polyamorous folks joined the list of minorities given full representation.

Polyamory remains taboo even in cultures that have enshrined equal marriage rights for gays. Adjusting to the idea that we can’t choose who we love is one thing, while adjusting to the idea that we can’t choose how many we love is a very different ball of wax. We have all grown up in cultures that valorize monogamy and view any departure from it in pejorative terms: cheating, betraying, unfaithful.

But as we gays know very well, taboo doesn’t translate to nonexistent. It translates to invisible.

Blue man group

Remember when we used to say that if every gay person suddenly turned blue, everyone would realize they knew a gay person? The same applies to polyamorous folks.

I didn’t intentionally set out to portray a polyamorous relationship. The narrative arc and the characters themselves drove it, starting with Andira’s three-way Sharings with Ekatya and Lhyn at the end of The Caphenon.

As we learned early in the second book, those Sharings created a partial tyree bond between Tal and Ekatya. In the fourth book, Catalyst, Salomen explicitly rejected Tal’s assertion that this bond wouldn’t change anything:

“But the truth is that you and Ekatya are not just friends, and if this little piece of a bond has survived seventeen moons of separation, then you will never be just friends. You created something permanent.”

“I know,” Tal said. “I just don’t know what to do about it.”

“And this is where you keep making the same mistake. It’s not for you to do anything, not by yourself. This isn’t about you. It’s not even about you and Ekatya. It involves all four of us, and we will all decide if anything needs to be done.”

We also learned in Catalyst that Andira Tal wasn’t the only one feeling the effects of that bond:

“I’ve never had a friend like you. But we’re not just friends, are we? That bond…” [Ekatya] took another breath and said what she had been afraid to. “I missed you every day, Andira. Every damned day.”

The fifth, sixth, and seventh books didn’t push this narrative in any direction because they were about other characters and relationships. But then came Book 8: Uprising.

Here is where we saw Salomen walk out on Tal for a perceived betrayal: not of loving Ekatya, but of doing something for her that she wouldn’t do for her own bondmate. The threat was never the bond, the threat was the quality of the bond, which seemed to put Salomen in second place.

Here is also where we saw the beginnings of the relationship between Lhyn and Salomen, followed by the latter’s new understanding, which she shared with Tal upon her return to the State House:

“I realized something last night. We all have our own connections. All four of us. Perhaps I just needed to know that I have a place in that, besides the one I have with you.”

Because Salomen was the one questioning her place, she was the first to recognize the importance of balance in their connections. She and Lhyn also acknowledged, during their laughter-choked imaginings of Tal and Ekatya sharing a bed, that “those two wouldn’t do anything without written permission from us. In triplicate,” as Lhyn put it. Any change would have to be driven by Salomen and Lhyn, because their honorable tyrees would never, ever take the first step.

We saw the relationship between Lhyn and Salomen deepen during the three days they hid away before the uprising. We also had a preview of the new powers these bonds enabled when Salomen heard Ekatya laugh during that nighttime mind-to-mind visit.

Finally, during the uprising itself, Tal and Lhyn realized that their foursome Sharings were having unexpected effects — and that they would have to decide whether to let it happen or try to put on the brakes.

If they were finding their own interconnections, Tal could no longer coast on a primary position she hadn’t even realized she held—not until the possibility of losing it was staring her in the face. She didn’t know what the four of them were creating, but if she was too afraid to speak her truth, the others might create it without her.

“I know what I don’t want,” she said. “I don’t want to stop.”

“Me either.” Lhyn’s relief felt like the first breath of air after being underwater too long. “I don’t ever want to stop, and Ekatya—sometimes I think she needs it more than I do.”

Now, here is where I make a confession.

man confessing to a detective

Before Alsea Rising, the various clues pointing toward this arc were subtle. If you didn’t notice, or did notice but read the clues a different way, that doesn’t mean you were inattentive or in denial. It means I succeeded in giving myself an escape route.

Because right up until Book 9, Chapter 9, I wasn’t certain I’d go through with it.

I knew the polyamory arc would be controversial. I expected, and have received, negative book reviews as a result. While I never wrote that tyree bonds were the equivalent of soulmates — in fact, Dr. Wells’ genetic explanation of these bonds explicitly argued against it — I’m aware that some readers consider this to be the case. Even aside from that, many readers are invested in these great loves and don’t want to see two loving hearts become three. They firmly believe that to love more than one person at a time, physically or romantically, is a betrayal. Our cultures tell us that practically from birth. It is powerful messaging, and for most people, it’s not just belief, it’s reality.

I did not want to upset, anger, or sadden readers. Moreover, I did not want readers to lose respect for characters who are my beloved friends — people I’ve lived with and shared my mind with for nearly ten years.

To prevent that, I seriously considered compromising the artistic vision of this series. At the end of Uprising, I could still have chosen the safest path forward.

wide path through woods

But the narrative arc of Alsea Rising doesn’t truly work without completing the plot arcs that began all the way back in The Caphenon. To back away from my vision and avoid controversy would have felt like a different betrayal — mine.

So I made my choice and brought the narrative full circle.

The series begins with a collision of cultures and follows its ramifications through our four main characters: two Alseans and two Gaians. Among the ripple effects are restoration of the divine tyrees, the breaking of Fahla’s covenant (on Ekatya’s advice), and the combination of both in the final battle. Tal’s strategy to fight the Voloth in Alsea Rising was made possible by the changes brought to Alsea via Lhyn and Ekatya. But as we eventually learn, that strategy requires more than Tal expected or planned for.

The Gaians can’t beat this foe alone. The Alseans can’t beat them alone. The two forces working together are far more powerful, and that is represented by our four leads. If you are now thinking “the polyamory is a metaphor?” then you are right—but it is also a natural endpoint.

Over and over again throughout these books, we’ve seen how our four leads help and even save each other. The most important aspect of this has always been the power of their tyree bonds.

Tal mended Ekatya and Lhyn’s relationship at the end of The Caphenon via a three-way Sharing and many more after, which established both her initial tyree bond with Ekatya and a new connection between Ekatya and Lhyn. That new ability saved Lhyn in Catalyst. Salomen’s tyree power saved Tal in her death duel in Without A Front. In Uprising, the power provided by both Salomen and Tal shifted Lhyn and Ekatya’s bond from “something more” to “full divine.” (That is why Lhyn’s attempt to light up the molwyn tree with Ekatya didn’t work in The Caphenon, but did work during their bonding ceremony.) The four of them working together healed Lhyn’s brain damage. And then their powers began to merge…as did their hearts. Without that, certain important events in The Seventh Star could not occur, including a critical rescue.

four-legged stool

Some may feel that all of these balanced and ever-increasing powers were equally possible without the polyamory. To my view, attempting that would have been like building a four-legged stool with one leg an inch shorter than the others. (Though I was still tempted — see above reference to subtle clues and an escape route.)

Taking this down from metaphor level to character level, Tal was polyamorous the moment she fell for Salomen. That she didn’t act on her love for Ekatya doesn’t negate the fact that she loved two women. The same held true for Ekatya, though it took her longer to realize it. Leaving these bonds unbalanced would have meant these two women denying a part of themselves for the rest of their lives.

As for Salomen, what single force drives her more than any other? Love for her family. It is completely within her character to embrace a larger-than-normal family and take joy in loving and being loved so deeply. In Without A Front, she told Tal that one of the things she appreciated about their bond was that for once, she knew she was wanted for herself and not her land. To experience that twice is, for her, a true gift. All she needed was the assurance that she was ascendant in one of those bonds.

Lhyn is very like Salomen in that regard, though she comes to it from the opposite direction. She was a child who competed (unsuccessfully, it seems) for parental love and grew into a solitary nomad who didn’t trust romantic love. As she revealed in Uprising, Ekatya’s abandonment broke her trust so badly that she would never have recovered had Tal not initiated that Sharing. It was therefore enormously significant when she told Salomen, “I don’t think your love comes in rations.”

The irony is that Lhyn’s career made her uniquely open to a non-standard relationship, but her distrust of romantic love limited her ability to hold even one heart, let alone two. Salomen’s unwavering nature broke through that.

As an interesting side note, polyamory was present in this series as of the end of Book 3, when Micah confessed to Tal that he had loved her mother — so deeply, in fact, that Tal had to ask him whose daughter she really was. That this was already in Tal’s family history was a significant clue. (It is also another completed circle: Tal succeeded where her mother and adopted father did not.) Intriguingly, readers view that instance of polyamory as tragically romantic and completely noncontroversial. Is this because it was in the past? Perhaps because it wasn’t one of our four leads? I don’t know.

four hearts on fire

There is one more aspect of these interlaced bonds that I could not cover in the books, because the results won’t play out for some time. For those who read this arc with a sense of sadness and loss, I hope this final reveal will offer a salve.

Without some intervention, Ekatya and Lhyn would die long before Tal and Salomen. We know from the books that Alseans can easily live to 120.  Even if Gaians can reach the same number of years, the difference between a standard year and an Alsean cycle means that when an Alsean hits 60 cycles of age—just half their lifespan—a Gaian is nearly 90.

We also know, from a clue glimpsed at the end of Book 3, that Ekatya and Lhyn suspect Tal’s tyree bond has a reverse aging effect. We learn in Alsea Rising that the healing of Lhyn’s brain damage made structural changes in all of them. And we know that sealing a tyree bond — via a two-way Sharing — creates a physiological connection.

In the next few cycles, Dr. Wells will discover that her friends are not aging at the normal Gaian rate. This is not because of their own divine tyree bond. It’s because each of them also holds a tyree bond with an Alsean.

Ekatya and Lhyn will live out extraordinarily long lives with their friends and loved ones, aging at the same rate. And for those who believe in an afterlife…someday, these blended bonds will ensure that four women who loved deeply are never, ever separated.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Finally watched The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly for the very first time, after my son requested it. Good god, that movie takes forever! For those of you who don’t want to lose three hours of your lives for a film that could have been done in 80 minutes, here is my synopsis:



squinty-eyed man stares into sunlight

different squinty-eyed man stares into sunlight

third squinty-eyed man stares into sunlight




more dust


dusty men who haven’t seen a bath in two years (if the film hadn’t helpfully labeled THE UGLY, I would never have guessed who it was supposed to be)

token female character with zero words of dialogue playing subservient Mexican wife



more gunshots

cannon fire

second token female character with about ten words of dialogue playing town prostitute whose sole point in the film is to be brutally beaten in order to reveal a name



hanging noose


desert sun


squinty-eyed man with chapped lips

Confederate soldiers

Union soldiers

cannon fire


satisfying bridge explosion (after two characters carry a wooden crate helpfully marked “EXPLOSIVES” through an active battle zone with soldiers falling all around them and somehow nobody notices or shoots at them)

man running in circles through a graveyard

squinty-eyed man with a shovel and gun

second squinty-eyed man with a shovel and gun

three squinty-eyed men in a triangle at the center of a graveyard



three men squinting and glaring at each other

more squinting and glaring

even more squinting and glaring

still more squinting and glaring

and finally…

one last round of squinting and glaring (I am not exaggerating here)




squinty-eyed man screaming curses

second squinty-eyed man shoots a rifle

first squinty-eyed man screams a final curse: “You son of a—”



And there you have it! I’ve just saved you two hours and fifty-nine minutes. I highly recommend that you take five of those minutes to watch this fantastic rendition of the theme, so that you, too, can be whistling it for the next several days.

Posted in entertainment, humor, life, video | 3 Comments

Alsea Rising: The Seventh Star is in the wild

Seventh Star final cover


The conclusion of the two-part Alsea Rising and of the entire Chronicles of Alsea series has debuted at #1 in its Amazon category. I should probably warn prospective readers that it hits the ground running and does not let you breathe for the first half…at least. Here are a few early comments from readers:

“Breathless reading, total new experience…I sit here with broken reading glasses and no time to go to the shop.”

“I’m on an emotional rollercoaster as well and for the first time in years, I actually considered smoking a cigarette inside my house.”

“I’m at chapter 17 and I’m taking a little break before I start to read again…I have to give my heart a time to rest.”

Kindle readers can pick up the book here, while ePub readers can choose their favorite store from this portal.

Enjoy the journey! — but maybe lay in a supply of drinks and snacks first.

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Alsea Rising is out and #1!

hardback on a wood table


Updated to add correct Amazon link (dangit).


Alsea Rising: Gathering Storm hit the virtual publishing shelves at #1 in the Amazon category of LGBT Science Fiction, which made me a very happy camper — but I’d like to point out that it’s not only a lesbian book and it’s not just science fiction.

This is a book that is as much about romance and deep love as it is about military strategizing and an impending space battle. I can’t get specific without spoilers, but there is a significant plot arc that will greatly appeal to straight readers looking for a little romance. And for those who have loved the family scenes of prior novels, you’ll find them here as well.

This book pulls together threads from the previous books of the series, alllll the way back to the very first one, and ties them up in a big bow (with fancy knots!) — while sucking you into several new plot arcs that will keep you guessing.

One reader said, “While I am only halfway in, Gathering Storm is already my favorite Chronicles of Alsea book. The book hangover is going to be a doozy.”

Another wrote that she “laughed and cried all the way through it. I’m speechless. I’ll have to reread it 12 times before I’m capable of constructive discussion.”

The good news is, Alsea Rising: Gathering Storm will stand up to 12 rereads. It has layers upon layers, multicolored threads all being woven together, and details that take on much greater significance once you know what happens. So, you know, my usual.

Epub readers can go here to find portals to all of the online shops (including Angus & Robertson for Australian readers!). Paperbacks are available from Amazon US now, and will be in the other Amazon stores in another couple of days. Any way you want it, you can get it — but you’d better strap in.

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Coming soon: Alsea Rising

Storm final cover

So far I’ve been ready to throw 2020 back and try for a better year, but there have been some bright notes. Among them: the next two books of the Chronicles of Alsea are coming, starting on July 31.

Alsea Rising is one epic tale divided into two parts (much like Without A Front) and wraps up the series. Yes, this is the end of the Chronicles of Alsea, but not of Alsea stories. I have not one but two new series percolating in my brain: a young adult set of six books, one book for each caste (and each featuring a new main character), and an adult series following the adventures of the Phoenix. I expect we’ll see familiar faces in both, but my plan is for standalone stories as opposed to maintaining sweeping arcs through multiple books.

Still, that is for later. The big news is now. Alsea Rising: Gathering Storm will be released July 31. It will conclude with Alsea Rising: The Seventh Star just two weeks later, on August 14.

I guarantee a barn-burner of a story and possibly some sleepless nights. 

Just to whet the appetite, here is the back cover synopsis of Gathering Storm:

As Alsea’s space elevator nears completion, an unsettling rumor arrives: the Voloth are stirring once more.

Lancer Andira Tal has been preparing for this since the Battle of Alsea, determined that her people will never again pay such a price. She will use every weapon at her disposal—including her own bondmate.

In orbit, Captain Ekatya Serrado is fighting her own battle, reporting to a hostile admiral and under suspicion for her divine tyree bond. She dares not reveal that her bond is changing in ways even the Alseans could not foresee.

Amidst the mobilization for war, romance blossoms, familiar faces return, and a warrior’s honor is restored. Life and love will endure, even in a gathering storm.

Mark your calendars!

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On his terms

A few days ago, at the end of the Pilates class I teach, one of my Dutch students came up to me to say she wouldn’t be in class for three weeks. This is normal; my students are mostly expats and are always coming and going. Or they have family visiting, or someone is having a grandchild, etc.

And then she said, “I’m going home because my father is entering euthanasia.”

Which is not the sort of thing one is accustomed to hearing in casual after-class conversation. But one of the things I love about living in Europe is the intersection of different cultures and national laws/ways of doing things. So I asked, and learned that her father is 94 years old and has been slowly dying of a broken heart since her mother passed away in January.

“He can still do everything,” she said, “but every step is just so hard for him. It’s all so hard. He’s ready.”

The whole family is gathering from all over the continent for a massive, multi-week reunion and party. Her father will be able to see all the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and there will be food and drink and conversation, and then he will leave on a high note.

I told her that my home state was the first in the US to legalize euthanasia, and we discussed what a gift it is for those who want to go on their terms. She is happy for her father, who has been buoyed by the knowledge that he will never lose control of his life. He will get to say good-bye on his terms, and she will be able to say it as well. It is not only a gift for him.

She’ll be back at the end of the month. I expect she’ll have quite a story to tell.

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